Hunter Hayes Headlines Ryman Auditorium, Twice

HHAtlantic Records’ Hunter Hayes was one of two Nashville headliners spanning two nights in downtown venues this weekend (Oct. 18 and 19). The other was Luke Bryan at the Bridgestone, while Hayes appropriately packed the Ryman Auditorium during the Friday Hunter’s Moon for his Let’s Get Crazy Tour. MusicRow offered an early look at Hayes’ tour this month.

During intermission, post-Ashley Monroe (more on her phenom below), the backdrop partition was removed to reveal Hayes’ ramps and riser skirts covered with handwritten lyrics. The writing didn’t stop there, the piano, guitar pick guards, and (spoiler alert) oversized balloons in the finale were also covered. Those song lyrics were well received among the post-millennial female crowd, many of whom are discovering their individuality and searching for love. Here’s, a boy spilling his heart out on every co-written song to provide companionship to the developing generation. “A song will never let you down—you’re never alone,” Hayes charismatically preached from the stage.

Front-row fans stood in front of metal folding chairs, pulsing their heads to the beat of the music. The auditorium pews also carried a light load for standing patrons on the main floor, perhaps a taste of what the 1950’s music fans were like – new music giving voice to a burgeoning generation. Hayes displayed not only a buoyant stage swagger, but a certain command as he hopped on monitor stands. “This tour is my first time properly headlining,” said Hayes with a coffee cup in hand. “We’re gonna play every song from Encore – for the love of music, let’s be crazy, Nashville!”

A five-member band backed Hayes, who prepared fans for his one “costume change” where he removed his jean jacket to sport a black tee, slicked comb over, jeans and Converse kicks. For the 22-year-old talent who played every instrument on his debut record, new guitars were at his fingertips for each song; at times the savant even switched instruments in the middle of songs. For the acoustic strip-down, Hayes looped guitar rhythms and layered vocal harmony for a slow-build, solo-performance of “I’ll Find It In A Song.”

Ronnie Milsap, a confessed longtime influence for Hayes, gave a surprise performance with his 1983 hit “Stranger In My House.” “When you hear his music, mine will all of a sudden make sense,” explained Hayes who watched intently as the Country legend sat behind the keys.

Hayes kicked his production into overdrive with a succession of catchy titles for the finale, including an Imagine Dragons cover “On Top Of The World,” alongside his own “Wanted,” “You Light Me Up,” and “I Want Crazy.”

Ashley Monroe backstage for Let's Be Crazy Tour. Photo: Instagram

Ashley Monroe backstage for Let’s Be Crazy Tour. Photo: Instagram

Prior to Hayes, Monroe donned a gorgeous long sleeve, open back sparkly lace romper from Jovani. With her tan ankle boots, Hippie Annie didn’t noticeably frighten the mostly middle school attendees with her traditional sound, featuring her band’s upright bass. Her set included the Miranda Lambert cut, “Heart Like Mine,” as well as Monroe’s own “Satisfied,” and “Can’t Let Go.” Mother chaperones, too, seemed unfazed with the misdeeds in Monroe’s current single, “Weed Instead of Roses.”

Monroe additionally graced the stage with her Warner Nashville labelmate during a masterful collaboration on “What You Gonna Do,” which is featured on Hayes’ latest release Encore. The song perhaps may be the one commonality between Monroe’s twang and Hayes’ generational pop-appeal, aside from each’s giant talent.

The CMT-sponsored tour runs through December. Find your tickets at cmt.com.

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Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine, MusicRow.com, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] | @EricTParker

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